HEWITT — The Harker Heights girls track and field team spent the week leading up to the District 8-5A meet preparing for the best shot from Killeen ISD rival Shoemaker.
But it wasn’t Shoemaker that was chasing the Lady Knights on Saturday. It was Killeen.
And, ultimately, it didn’t matter.
The loudest cheer of the day came from the Lady Knight team at midfield of Panther Stadium after it was announced that Heights had repeated as District 8-5A champions for the first time in school history.
“It feels great. I feel really good about this,” senior JoVanna Jones said. “It was a great win for all of us, and we’re all just excited to be out here and just run. And we came out here and did what we were supposed to do.”
Heights literally ran away with the team scoring Saturday afternoon. Victories in the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays propelled the Lady Knights to a 166 point total.
Killeen was second with 129 points, followed by Shoemaker with 127.
On the boys side, Heights led the way for local teams again, finishing as runner-up to district champion Temple.
But for the Knights, who came up just 6.5 points short of Temple after a furious rally, it was hard to overlook how close they were to winning it all.
“It hurts. It hurts bad,” Heights senior Darius Mitchell said. “We tried. We gave it our best. Everything doesn’t work out the way you planned. But we’re prone to come back stronger next week.”
While the Lady Knights were faced with an unexpected challenger in Killeen, they responded with an unexpected performance, exceeding the expectations of head coach Michelle Womack.
“We got that and some,” Womack said. “We got points that I wasn’t expecting. Jazzman Clare, a young freshman, stepped up and qualified in the 100 hurdles. We scored some points that I had not planned on, and that’s always a positive.”
In addition to the relays, the Lady Knights also took gold in the triple jump; Vivian Walters, who also ran on both relays, repeated as champion in the event.
“I feel like I did really good in the triple jump,” Walters said.
“And in long jump, I didn’t do so well, but I actually was proud of myself with the consistency and the jumping.”
For the boys, Heights won gold in the 200-meter dash; Mitchell won the event with a time of 22.35.
Mitchell later ran on the 800-meter relay team, which got second despite fighting fatigue at the end of a long day.
For Heights head coach John Dulaney, it was an effort he was pleased with and one he knows the Knights can build on going forward.
“We brought it all the way back to seven points and Temple was way out there, so we closed the gap,” Dulaney said. “I’m proud of the kids for doing it. We didn’t give up. They kept fighting.”
Womack, of course, was also proud of her team as it met all challengers, even the unexpected ones, for a second straight season.
And after setting out to do what no Heights team had done before at the start of the season, Womack took a second to bask in the moment of what her team had accomplished.
“You talk to kids about setting goals and working hard for them all the time,” Womack said. “That’s one of the things that we strive for. And you want kids to know that they can achieve more than they ever thought possible. And nobody thought we were going to win this thing coming into today more than we did.
“We fulfilled a goal, and that’s what you want kids to do.”